2019 NLDS Game 1: Corbin vs. Buehler

Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

After a literal eternity (well, six months), the postseason begins today for the Dodgers. They’re hosting a familiar foe in the form of the Washington Nationals.

 
Nationals
   
Dodgers
 
5:37 p.m.
   
Los Angeles
SS
Turner  
LF
Pollock
RF
Eaton  
1B
Freese
3B
Rendon  
3B
Turner
LF
Soto  
CF
Bellinger
1B
Kendrick  
RF
Taylor
2B
Cabrera  
2B
Muncy
CF
Robles   SS Seager
C
Gomes  
C
Smith
P
Corbin (L)  
P
Buehler (R)

You remember the epic 5-game series these two teams had back in 2016 that culminated in Kenley Jansen throwing 2 1/3 innings of relief in Game 5 and Clayton Kershaw playing the Jansen role of closer. We won’t talk about what happened after that series, but of the recent (six years) playoff runs the Dodgers have had, that was probably the most competitive (that ended with a Dodger win).

If you want a more in-depth preview of the series, check out the post from yesterday.

Walker Buehler — not Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu — gets the ball in Game 1 for LA. His last postseason appearance was a 7-inning gem in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, so we know he’s more than ready for the big stage. This is a bit of a passing of the torch/changing of the guard — whatever phrase you prefer — as the 25-year-old Buehler is the best pitcher on the staff, and it isn’t particularly close. Ryu had a great season, but Buehler’s upside is unquestioned.

What’s interesting here is how the rest of the rotation might play out in this series. I’m guessing Ryu starts Game 2 and Kershaw will start Game 3 in Washington, based on the fact that Ryu is better than Kershaw right now and you’d like to have a chance to be up 2-0 heading east. But it wouldn’t be surprising if that order were reversed so that Kershaw would be available for a potential Game 5 at home. Of course, Buehler would be on full rest, too, and I’d hope he would get the ball in that scenario, but we have seen Dave Roberts lean heavily on Kershaw in years past.

Patrick Corbin — familiar with the Dodgers from his days in the NL West — gets the ball for Washington in Game 1. The Nats threw Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer in the Wild Card game, so they won’t be available until Games 2 and 3, respectively. Still, Corbin had a strong season for the Nats. He had a 3.25 ERA, 3.49 FIP and was nearly a 5-win pitcher. He misses a lot of bats (28.1 K%, 14.2 SwStr%) and is one of the best starters in the game at getting hitters to chase.

Both lineups are pretty stacked, as both these offenses are comparable. The Dodgers have more power, but the Nats scored just 13 fewer runs than LA over the course of 162 games, so expect a lot of close games.

The key in the series could come down to bullpens. The Nationals had a very poor ‘pen this season. For all the Dodgers’ struggles with relievers, Washington — at times — wishes it had LA’s ‘pen.

But like every series the Dodgers play, they’re only going to go as far as their best players take them. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Buehler, Kershaw, Ryu, Jansen — if the majority of these guys don’t perform, it’s going to be a short postseason for LA. But this isn’t like last year, or 2013 through ’16. This team won 106 games — a franchise record. It is the current juggernaut in the National League. I know the Nats are tough because they’re a well-rounded club, but the Dodgers are the favorites. They’re no longer playing the role of “just happy to be here.” They have World Series aspirations, and teams with those aspirations aren’t scared of anyone, even if ZiPS sees this as almost a literal coin flip.

As long as the best players perform and get a hand here or there from the (strong) supporting cast, this could be a great month. If not, well, we can all ride the sadness train to oblivion. 

Let the happiness/sadness, optimism/pessimism, hope/dread begin.

——

Finally, there’s an event involving Kirk Gibson and the Parkinson Association of San Diego is on Saturday. Here are the details:

“(W)e will be hosting our annually ‘Knock Parkinson’s Out The Park’ event in Del Mar benefiting those individuals who have or been impacted by Parkinson’s disease. The Great Kirk Gibson will be the guest speaker of this event. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015. There will be a meet & greet with Kirk as well.”

Sounds like a worthwhile event, if anyone is interested in going.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.